04 January 2010

Books on post-democracy

People who lament or fear the end of democracy or the uncertainty after democracy may speak of "post-democracy". One reason why I prefer the clear-cut "anti-democracy" is that it is not as ambivalent (while leaving open the possibility of competing or coexisting non-democratic futures). Post-democracy is a term with many – sometimes mutually exclusive – meanings. Three publications of recent years may illustrate this.

A book with the simple title "Post-Democracy", written by Colin Crouch, was published in 2004 by Polity Press:


From the publisher's description: "Post-Democracy is a polemical work that goes beyond current complaints about the failings of our democracy and explores the deeper social and economic forces that account for the current malaise.

"Colin Crouch argues that the decline of those social classes which had made possible an active and critical mass politics has combined with the rise of global capitalism to produce a self-referential political class more concerned with forging links with wealthy business interests than with pursuing political programmes which meet the concerns of ordinary people. He shows how, in some respects, politics at the dawn of the twenty-first century returns us to a world familiar well before the start of the twentieth, when politics was a game played among elites.

"However, Crouch maintains that the experience of the twentieth century remains salient and it reminds us of possibilities for the revival of [democratic] politics."

The book is fully searchable on Google Book Search (including table of contents):


Colin Crouch is Professor of Governance and Public Management at the University of Warwick and a Fellow of the British Academy. At the time of writing this book, he was Professor of Sociology at the European University Institute.

In 2007, Edward Elgar Publishing released "Counter-Terrorism and the Post-Democratic State", edited by Jenny Hocking and Colleen Lewis:


From the publisher's description: "The 'war on terror' and ongoing terrorist attacks around the world have generated a growing body of literature on national and international measures to counteract terrorist activity. This detailed study investigates an aspect of contemporary counter-terrorism that has been largely overlooked; the impact of these measures on the continued viability of the democratic state. Democratic nations are now facing an unprecedented challenge – to respond to global terrorism without simultaneously overturning fundamental human and political rights."

The (very expensive) book is fully searchable on Google Book Search (including list of contributors and table of contents):


Jenny Hocking is Professor (School of Humanities, Communications and Social Sciences) and Colleen Lewis is Associate Professor (School of Political and Social Inquiry) at Monash University, Australia.

Finally, "Cynicism and Hope: Reclaiming Discipleship in a Postdemocratic Society", edited by Meg E. Cox (Cascade Books, 2009):


Endorsement: "Most Christians in the United States still tune their hope to the rhythm of the election cycle. For Reba Place Fellowship, Living Water Community Church and these other contributors [to the book], hope is tuned to quieter things a noisy world cannot hear – things like friendship, gardening, sitting down with enemies, and ultimately, Jesus. This collection is bracing in its timeliness." (Jason Byassee, Duke Divinity School)

From the publisher's description: "The contributors suggest a new way to live in the tension between hope that things will improve and cynicism about whether they ever will. While creating space for lament, they point toward a radical Christian faithfulness in neighborhoods and congregations that can be both hopeful and profoundly political."

The book is not (yet) on Google Book Search.

Meg E. Cox is a freelance writer and editor.

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